God’s Not Dead 2—A movie review
So-so sequel is slightly satisfying
After the overwhelming success of the 2014 Christian film God’s Not Dead (which made over 60 million dollars (US) at the box office on a reported production budget of 2 million), it wasn’t a surprise that the Christian production company Pure Flix would produce a sequel; God’s Not Dead 2.
The quality of movies, like all art forms, are subject to interpretation because of personal preferences each person has. This review will offer a brief synopsis, some personal production analysis and commentary on the content of the apologetics presented in the film which is the main focus of a ministry like CMI.
Every individual’s taste and predilections vary and can colour their opinions regarding the over-all quality (storytelling, acting, production value) of a movie. One also has to consider a film’s budget and other resources (in comparison to typical Hollywood fare where 100+ million dollar budgets, state of the art equipment and top tier talent are common) when rating a film. I thought it was better than the first movie, and did have a few minor celebrities. (Caution-spoilers ahead).
Using the similar premise of the first film (Christian persecution in public life), this film centres around a high school history teacher named Grace, who becomes the target of school authorities after quoting Scripture in a classroom setting in response to a student’s question about Jesus.
When confronted and asked to apologize, Grace refuses. This opens her up to a lawsuit where she could be fired and lose her teaching credentials if found guilty, a precedent-setting opportunity for the gleeful ACLU lawyer who plans on making an example of her.
Similar to the first film, there are several subplots regarding faith explored throughout that are all somewhat interconnected, and moments during the movie where it seems like a blatant advertisement for the Australian-founded band Newsboys is occurring rather than a story is being told.
A good portion of the film’s drama involves the courtroom battle between Grace’s young inexperienced lawyer, Tom, vs. the ACLU’s hard-nosed veteran. Tom’s main strategy becomes proving to the jury that Jesus was an actual historical figure, thus justifying Grace’s quoting of Jesus in a history class. In reality, all a lawyer would probably have to prove is that Grace’s statement could not be taken by a reasonable person to be intending to proselytize.
Tom (somehow) enlists witnesses Lee Strobel (former journalist and author of The Case for Christ and The Case for a Creator) and J. Warner Wallace (former homicide detective and author of Cold-case Christianity) to testify as to the historicity of Jesus.
Given each one’s expertise and the fact that they were both non-believers when they began their investigation into the life of Christ, they each present powerful (seemingly unbiased) evidence as to the historical fact of the man Jesus of Nazareth as having existed (in extremely improbable, lengthy expositions for a courtroom) and to the accuracy of Scripture.
In contrast to the first movie, this presents intellectually solid (although extremely limited) apologetic evidence for the Christian faith (as described above). Unfortunately, rather than this being the decisive factor in the case, it is an exceedingly unrealistic emotional rant from Tom that sways the jury in Grace’s favour in the end.
This movie highlights the very real culture war being waged against the Christian faith in the western world, but like the original, often does so in an idealistic, ‘heavy-handed’ manner. Good points like the false argument of the ‘separation between church and state’ are pointed out, and evidence presented from professionals showing cogent intellectual arguments are commendable. However, triumph being the result of a ‘hail-Mary’ speech designed to tug on the heart strings of the jury rather than a reasoned defense made the victory fall flat for me.
This movie had some of the weaknesses of its predecessor, such as some stereotypical, flat characters who were not entirely believable as real people. There were also several religious conversations with the pastor character (the same one from the first movie), and a conversion. These seemed more authentic than in the first movie. Also, some characters, while experiencing a shift in their thinking about Christianity, stopped short of actual conversion, which seems more believable, because many people don’t convert right away.
That all being said, movies like this may well cause more believers to ‘wake up’ to the real life cases similar to that being portrayed in the movie (some that are listed at the end credits of the film) that are slowly removing freedoms that Christians once enjoyed.